The Barefoot Spirit – Getting Started

As the Barefoot Wine Founders, Bonnie Harvey and I learned a great deal about business in the 2 decades it took to grow a best-selling brand. We started in 1985 with no money and no knowledge of the wine industry. We were successful because we followed philosophical principles that can be applied to almost any business. We both had business and consulting backgrounds before Barefoot, but nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared us for the crazy, illogical, completely random nature of the wine business.

In this post, we want to share some of the principles that guided us and helped us survive.

We started it all in the laundry room of our old ranch house in West Sonoma County. We turned what seemed like a novelty wine label into one of the most awarded and most recognized brands in America. At the time, the industry was not amused. In fact, they seriously disliked our playful use of a foot on the label and really hated how we helped demystify wine. Our friend Larry Martin says, “Where there is mystery, there is margin.” So I guess they thought we were out to hurt their margins.

Ironically, 10 years later, those same wineries were calling to thank us for all the new wine lovers they had coming into their tasting rooms. Many of those people started with Barefoot. When most wineries were apologizing for not being French enough, Barefoot made wine approachable, affordable and accessible to the average American. Barefoot made wine fun!

So my first point here is that you really have to believe in your idea. You have to visualize its success even when you are being pooh-poohed, even when you are broke, even when you are confronted with what seems like insurmountable obstacles, unfathomable laws and a stiff and stuffy status quo. What kept us going is what we call the “Barefoot Spirit.” The constant encouragement from loyal fans let us know they loved the fun approach, the price, the popular taste, and more.

Whatever your idea or your service is, you have to keep the faith. This blog will examine what helped us keep the faith and it will cover a whole range of other essential topics in hopes that our experience will help you and your business. These days, sometimes the only employment is self employment. It is our hope that everyone, especially young people, will be entertained by what happened to us and by what we learned, and that you can apply those principles to your own ventures.

Some of the topics our blog will cover in future posts include:

  • Keeping the Faith
  • The Advantages of Being Undercapitalized
  • Straight Up – The Fastest Way Out-Of-The-Box
  • Distinguishing Your Space
  • Attracting the Right Allies
  • Incorporating Your Core Values
  • Building a Team
  • Building a Culture
  • “Worthy-Cause Marketing”
  • Outsource Everything Except Quality
  • Getting “Feet” Back
  • Paying for Performance
  • Parenting / Mentoring
  • Advice Management
  • Making Mistakes Right
  • The Seven Sales
  • Knowing What Questions to Ask of the Data
  • Your Exit Strategy.

We look forward to your comments and questions.


About Michael Houlihan & Bonnie Harvey

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